Feeling down? Take a deep breath. According to New Scientist, a new study from Stanford University suggests that incorporating simple breathing exercises into your daily routine can significantly improve your mood.
Researchers randomly assigned 114 participants across the US to practice one of three breathing exercises or mindfulness meditation for just 5 minutes a day at home. The results were clear: after one month, all four groups showed improvements in mood and reductions in anxiety, but those practicing breath control techniques, particularly cyclic sighing, experienced more pronounced benefits than those who simply observed their breathing.
Cyclic sighing, the most effective technique for improving mood, involves inhaling slowly and then taking another short breath to fully inflate the lungs, before exhaling for as long as possible. Box breathing, which involves inhaling, holding the breath, exhaling, and holding the exhaled breath again, and cyclic hyperventilation, which involves taking longer inhales and shorter exhales 30 times before exhaling fully, also resulted in improvements.
The study’s lead researcher, Melis Yilmaz Balban, believes that active control over one’s breathing, as opposed to simply observing it, can lead to a more positive feeling about oneself. This theory is based on the idea that by actively controlling one’s breathing, an individual is able to exert a sense of control over their body and mind, which can then lead to improved mood and reduced anxiety. To test this hypothesis, the research team is planning a larger trial involving around 500 participants. The trial will compare the effects of cyclic sighing, a breathing technique in which individuals take deep breaths and exhale with an audible sigh, to hypnosis in terms of enhancing mood and relieving anxiety. The results of this trial will provide further insight into the relationship between active control of breathing and improved emotional well-being.
So next time you’re feeling stressed or down, try incorporating these breathing exercises into your daily routine for a quick and easy mood boost. While the health benefits of meditation are widely known (read – What Are The Health Benefits Of Meditation), it seems that cyclic sighing could be one of the best breathing exercises that improve your mood.